The central nervous system (CNS) has been referred to as the "immunological privileged site". However, it is now clear that the privileged status of the CNS is a result of a balance between immune privilege and effective response. In vitro, human bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have the ability to differentiate into neurons. Based on this biological attribute we gain the possibility by means of using MSCs as the donors to develop a future cell therapy in clinical application. But using MSCs as donor cells inevitably raises the question as to whether these donor cells would be immunogenic, and if so, would they be rejected after transplantation. To investigate this, human MSCs were cultured in vitro and induced to differentiate along neuronal lineage. The expression of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I and class II molecules and the co-stimulatory protein CD80 were increased on the surface of MSCs in the course of neuronal differentiation. But neither of the co-stimulatory proteins, CD40 or CD86, was expressed. After IFN-γ exposure, the expression of the HLA molecules was further enhanced, but the co-stimulatory proteins were unaffected. MSCs that had been differentiated along neuronal lineage were not capable of inducing the proliferation of peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs). Even after IFN-γ exposure, PBLs remained unresponsive. Furthermore, MSCs differentiated along neuronal lineage suppressed the proliferation of PBLs induced by allogeneic PBLs and mitogens. The mechanisms involved in the immunosuppression may be related to the effect of soluble factors and cell-cell interactions of neuronal differentiated MSCs and PBLs. From the above data we suggested that the low immunogenicity and immunomodulatory function of MSCs in the course of neuronal differentiation in vitro, which will be helpful to further investigation in order to establish the new way for future medical application. © 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.